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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Don't know who "Lunch" is but I'm delighted that he "hearts" me. That's some graffiti I found down on Cannery Row earlier today and I couldn't resist the photo op. I also like to think that I have the potential to do some groundbreaking in my life & career - it's possible I already have, as we just experienced an earthquake here in Monterey, 5.something on the scale. Fascinating.

After dinner a few of us also wandered over to Monterey's weekly farmers' market, which is apparently famous for its...overpriced, faux cashmere scarves? However, I did have fun with one vendor, a funky young woman from LA. She was selling an aromatherapy product that resembles pretty tumbled stones but in a variety of lovely scents. I made a small purchase but told her I had to run back for a program. Her response was priceless: "Please don't tell me you're a LIBRARIAN." I believe her eyes also rolled. I responded in the affirmative. I assured her however that my job is fun, creative and everything I could ever want. She handed me my bag with a shake of the head and just said, "I'm sorry, but you do not look like a librarian."

In a certain sense, that's the point of this whole conference. Not a makeover of the physical appearance of librarians, but a rethinking, a rebirth of our presence, our image - a strong and earth-shaking attempt to NOT "look like librarians," at least not on our Web sites. We can be what we want to be and more importantly, what our communities and users want and need us to be.

Finally, late this morning, the clouds broke and the fabled California sun broke through the gloom. Immediately, one sensed ants in the pants of even the most dedicated resident of Virtual Reality - everyone needed some Real Reality, especially a reality that involved salty sea air and the soothing sounds of waves on the beach. And the manic barking of sea lions.

I took my sunshine break in late morning, after Joe Janes’ keynote, which was funny and insightful, as Janes always is, but was also a rehash of some themes I’d heard him speak on last May at a symposium in Oakbrook, IL. Nothing wrong with that, though - and everybody needs a refresher course in creative thinking about one’s own profession.Janes pulls no punches in telling librarians that the fastest route to extinction is to professional stagnation - digging in our heels and clinging to the remnants of “traditional librarianship” when our patrons and communities are asking us to move along and stay relevant.

I thought one of the best speakers I heard and saw on Monday was Erica Reynolds, Web Content Manager from the Johnson County library. She was talking about how difficult it is to find inspiration for a library Web site redesign (Amen to that, sister!). An earlier speaker, Jeff Wisniewski, also told us that a really bad way to find inspiration for your library Web site was to...look at other library Web sites. Ouch. A mistake that me and my coworkers have made many, many times. But what Jones said she and her Web redesign team did in order to stoke the flames of their collective creativity was to visit an art museum. With that thought in mind, I headed out from the dark and enclosed confines of the conference rooms and out into the streets and piers of Monterey.

I had already felt inspired by my visit, on Sunday afternoon, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The restful beauty of the sea life and the intelligently designed exhibits, the interactivity and the presence of happy, curious people of all ages not only provided entertainment, but got me thinking about work as well. In fact, I found myself emailing ideas to myself as I walked around! (I tend to do this a lot. It annoys my family and friends, but they’re getting used to it.) Today I gave myself time to walk down Fisherman’s Wharf and then took the Monterey Recreation Trail to Cannery Row, a landmark historic area made famous by the great American writer John Steinbeck. I won’t bore you with my train of thought as I walked, but there’s nothing better for clearing the cobwebs out of one’s brain than a gentle walk, free from the obligations of conversation, free from sound other than seagull and sea lion. I find California inspiring even when the ground isn't shaking, even when I'm not in a hotel banquet room listening to a Web guru of some kind. The scenery is amazing, the marriage of earth and sky, shore and sea. But there's this crazy creativity on the streets, in the galleries, the beaches and museums. Outside of the hotel today, there was a vintage car show with 50s music blasting in the courtyard, the farmers' market, people biking and jogging, sailing and whale watching.Everyone and every thing here seems very, very "green" - even tonight, at our "Gadgets, Gadgets and Gaming!" session, there was a tremendous emphasis on green uses of techology and every one of them got a huge round of applause.

Right now I want to focus on tonight's showcase - after the rousing introduction to gadgets, we're being visited by the Shanachie Tour, 3 Dutch librarians who have been travelling across America making a video documentary of great libraries while on their way here to Internet Librarian. They are fun, they are way cooler than us (we have to admit that) and I'm having a blast listening to them and watching clips of their journey. More soon. Back to ORD via LAX tomorrow.


  1. "I'm sorry, but you do not look like a librarian."

    That's awesome! Glad that you survived the earthquake- was it scary?

  2. You know how you can't be afraid of something when you don't know what it is? At the time the earthquake struck, we were packed into a noisy hotel banquet room. There were rumblings as if a manic bus boy had crashed his cart into the wall, and Karen Klecker from Deerfield told me she spotted the chandeliers shaking! But until someone announced, "There's been an earthquake near San Jose," we really had no idea, allowing us to just appreciate the eerie surprises Mother Nature throws at us from time to time.


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